❚ IT WAS ALBERT EINSTEIN WHO SAID: “Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.” So listen up, kids, to the words of wisdom being expressed in George O’Dowd’s first known TV appearance at the age of 18 sporting the mauve tartan clownsuit he used to wear to Barbarella’s club in Birmingham. When this show went out nobody knew the faces in the studio crowd and as you can hear, other kids took their clothes just as seriously as George, but listen how his quiet Sarf London tones – not yet modulated into his posher popstar accent – take over the studio discussion in the face of sarcastic punks.
Punkette: “Everybody who looks different gets aggression. You always get picked on.”
George: “You don’t have to get involved in it though. I don’t fight. If you’re really into dressing up … you wouldn’t care what other people thought.”
Lad: “Yeah but say somebody hit ya?”
G: “So what? You don’t have to hit them back.”
Lad: “So are you gonna stand there and take it?”
G: “I do! It’s more cool to walk away from people.”
This newly discovered footage dates from October 1979 and the endearingly innocent freeform discussion magazine called Something Else, presented by a team of teenagers and made by the BBC Community Programmes unit, years before trendy Channel 4 was invented. Broadcast on Saturday evenings on the intellectual’s channel, BBC2, the show ran for six years until October 1982, closing down at the very moment Channel 4 launched. It is the clear inspiration for the torrent of yoof TV the new network spawned.
In this edition from Birmingham, the Coventry band the Specials had just finished playing and George is sitting beside Martin Degville, just in front of Jane Kahn, partner in the seminal outrage shop Kahn & Bell. In the spring of ’79 George was sharing Degville’s flat, an old dental surgery in Goodall Street, overlooking the Walsall market. George was earning £3.50 a day at Degville’s Dispensary, Martin’s clothes stall in the Oasis market at the Bull Ring.
George described Martin as “cool and alien” in those days, and one of his few remarks on the show nonchalantly raises the biggest laugh. A few months later, he opened a London branch of Degville’s Dispensary where he was always charming and polite and surprisingly shy for somebody who dressed to shock – only visually a precursor of the pop monster he became with Sigue Sigue Sputnik in 1986.
➢➢ VIEW VIDEO of George O’Dowd on Something Else, 1979
Thanks. I’d never seen that before. I always look at these old videos and am so puzzled. George was so different back then, shyer and nicer than he is now. I can’t think of any other celebrity who has changed so much. Or maybe it was all just an act, and he was just covering up the bitchy George.
My cousin Georgie Stanton used to knock about with Boy George in the late 70s. I was only a kid then, but I think BG lived somewhere by St Matthews Church, or in Caldmore thereabouts.
I remember seeing him a few times with my cousin, each time you did, he always looked different, yellow clothes and yellow hair, green clothes green hair etc. He used to give me 10p pocket money whenever he saw me.
If you ask me Karma Chameleon is nothing philosophical or anything like that. He lived in Caldmore (Karma to us locals) and everyday he changed his appearance, so no more????
In London he lived on Middle Park Estate on Churchbury Road near the railway line, then he moved to the very top of Shooters Hill. He was a local legend around here in Eltham and Shooters Hill etc, long before he became famous and was a hero to us younger ones. Most of his looks are lost to history, I can remember seeing him dressed as a Pierrot clown, Black and White. I don’t remember the look shown in the TV studio here (although I do remember Martin’s). Another time he was wearing bright electric blue jodhpurs with knee-high spats, matching electric blue bolero jacket and large floppy beret, very early in 1981 and he looked amazing. I thought I looked pretty good. I had just returned from college dressed in my Undertaker Look and then I saw him, he just blew me away, he was in another different league. I think he had just been up his Mum’s and Dad’s. I always thought “George” was a funny name, though I’m not laughing now.
Just realised Natalie, you are talking about his time in Birmingham, that is why I didn’t recognise the area names and also why I didn’t recognise the outfit he was wearing in the film clip either.
Surely, more a case of sweet and young innocent, not yet tainted by fame and fortune. Although legend has it that he was – at times – quite vile to fellow clubbers, I think he has always been a Saint and a Sinner (one usually being more dominant than the other). That only makes him human – I don’t know anybody who isn’t a mass of contradictions!